An Iowa reporter who dug up 6-year-old Twitter posts from a college football fan and reportedly showed them to a company who had been donating money at the student’s behest is under investigation for his own racist posts from years ago.
The latest entry in the “cancel culture” notebook took place on Sept. 24.
Carson King, 22, raised over $1 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital after he created a unique sign for a Sept. 13 Iowa State game, spurring donations to his Venmo account.
King said he’d donate all the money to the hospital. Venmo and Anheuser-Busch then said they’d match his donations.
The Des Moines Register reporter Aaron Calvin was assigned to write a profile on King and as part of that reporting he did “a review of publicly visible social media posts, a standard part of a reporter’s work on a profile,” the Iowa paper said. Calvin discovered two Twitter posts he found offensive from 2012 and asked King about them, and King expressed regret about them.
Carol Hunter, the Register’s executive editor, said that editors at the paper then discussed whether or not to include the information in the profile and ultimately decided to. She claimed that the decision “was preempted” when King held a press conference to apologize for the posts.
Busch Light Carson King T-shirt links, with proceeds to @UIchildrens, down by 5 PM.
Press conference didn’t even start until 7 PM. It was not why Busch ended relationship. https://t.co/blImJXf0vz
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) September 25, 2019
According to WHO-TV reporter Keith Murphy, though, the paper appeared to reach out to Anheuser-Busch hours before the press conference. The company announced it was severing ties with King after being told of the tweets.
Then people noticed that the Twitter page of Calvin, the reporter who dug up King’s old tweets, included a slew of offensive posts.
“[Expletive] all cops,” he wrote in one.
In multiple others, he used racial slurs. He also said he was interested in teaching children at summer camps how to do drugs and “turn tricks.”
We are a critically acclaimed documentary film about child sex abuse
As editor of the @DMRegister
— An Open Secret (@AnOpenSecret) September 25, 2019
Calvin said in a statement that he “deleted previous tweets that have been inappropriate or insensitive. I apologize for not holding myself to the same high standards as the Register holds others.”
Calvin later locked his Twitter account.
The Register shared Calvin’s apology. It later issued a statement saying, “The Register is aware of reports of inappropriate social media posts by one of our staffers, and an investigation has begun.”
According to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics (pdf), journalists should “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”
A petition to force the Register to issue a front-page apology to King had garnered over 90,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
“The Des Moines Register needs to issue a public apology for trying to berate a young man who is doing something truly amazing,” wrote Nolan Randall, who started the petition.
King, meanwhile, said in the press conference that he was sorry for his posts.
“I wanted to share with you that eight years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, I made some social media posts with my friends that quoted and referenced the show ‘Tosh.0.’ One of those posts was brought to my attention by a member of the media today. I had no recollection of it,” he said.
“In re-reading it today—eight years later—I see it was an attempt at humor that was offensive and hurtful. I am so embarrassed and stunned to reflect on what I thought was funny when I was 16 years old. I want to sincerely apologize. Thankfully, high school kids grow up and hopefully become responsible and caring adults.”